Announced in Kyrgyzstan past week were the results of the republic’s second parliamentary elections since it transitioned to a parliamentary form of government. The elections were actually held on 4 October. Six out of the fourteen participating parties won seats in the sixth convocation of the 120-mandate legislature. The Social Democratic Party (SDPK) formed by President Almazbek Atambaev received a large majority of votes.
Overall, the elections went smoothly and all major political parties have accepted the outcome. This is the main achievement for the country, where for the past decade elections have been marred by intensified dissent and protest. Election fraud became the catalyst for two revolutions, in 2005 and 2010. “There is no risk of destabilisation,” political analyst Mars Sariev summed up the situation in comments to Deutsche Welle.
For the first time in the history of Kyrgyzstan, advanced technology was used in elections – biometric authentication and automated ballot counting. In fact, as Central Asia expert Maria Chepurina told Europe Insight, a large variety of national and international organisations observed the voting process throughout the entire country alongside local activists.
In addition, manual tallies were also taken for reasons of protocol. According to statements made at a press conference by the head of the Kyrgyz Central Election Commission, Tuigunaaly Abdraimov, the difference between the two figures was insignificant and did not affect the general outcome. According to the report from the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, minor issues were noticed at 57% of the polling stations, but these did not particularly influence voting tallies. Of significant problems which could affect the results, there was less than 1%. The impression left by the voting process was so positive that the head of the OSCE Ignacio Sanchez Amor freely used lofty words, saying that “the conducting of elections on a competitive and free basis was a unique event for Central Asia.” (cited from Polit.kg)
These electronic innovations were introduced as part of the struggle against such common occurrences in national elections as ballot stuffing and carousels. However, they were unable to eliminate absolutely every abuse and shortcoming, conscious or involuntary. “Practically all parties capable of compelling government or private enterprise employees used ‘administrative resource’. Many parties also bribed voters, often in the form of charity but also by distributing money directly” it says in the same report from the Coalition”.
Observers from the OSCE did not notice significant use of “administrative resource”, but they did notice the heightened activities of the president, whose authority, they said, was exploited by one of the parties for its own purposes (meaning, of course, the SDPK). The expert Maria Chepurina adds that the mass media was employed widely in the election campaign. According to her, the rivals overdid it with political advertising, especially when any evening show was interrupted by five or six political commercials. The parties used the time they had bought to the full.
Although the election results were fully predictable, voters expected a few “surprises” all the same. First, there was the low percentage of public support for the president’s SDPK party. Even on the day of the vote, the head of state announced that, “it well knows the majority of Kyrgyzstanis support it.”
“According to surveys conducted six months ago, this was 77%. I don’t think it’s any less today. But for the people, president and SDPK are not the exact same thing. Of course, it is important to me that I have a strong support base in parliament. I hope that the SDPK gets no less than 26 seats, like it did four years ago,” he is quoted in 24kg.org.
“I would call the SDPK results a tactical loss,” said political analyst Kubat Rakhimov, “because in spite of the colossal forces mobilised by the ruling party, it only increased its presence in parliament by a mere 12 seats. And the creation of the party Kyrgyzstan, a clone of the ruling party, is not likely to get it a majority in parliament; the ruling coalition will consist of a minimum of three parties” (Sayasat).
And the second surprise was in fact that the party Kyrgyzstan, often seen as an SDPK project, got third place. It was formed in 2010 but had not been involved in any significant activity until the last elections. It is now headed by a former deputy from the Republic party, Kanatbek Isaev, who gave up his parliamentary mandate for an appointment as government plenipotentiary in the Chui Oblast.
As for the old parties, Republic – Ata Zhurt, headed by former prime minister Omurbek Babanov and ex-deputy Kamchybek Tashiev, lived up to expectations and took second place. Ata Meken, with four-time parliamentarian Omurbek Tekebaev at its head, ranked last, as in previous elections.
Concerning the remaining two parties, which are new – Onguu-Progress and Bir Bol – fourth and fifth place are excellent spots considering these are their first elections. These are parties founded by defectors. So, the leader of Onguu-Progress, Bakyt Torobaev came from Republic, and Bir Bol has Myktybek Abdyldaev and Altynbek Sulaimanov among its cadres. These were leaders of the Ata Zhurt and Republic factions, respectively.
What lies ahead
The results of the parliamentary elections provide the first test of strength before the presidential elections coming up in 2017: who to nominate and who to support.
The initial impression is that the candidate from the strongest party has the best chance. Political scientist Mars Sariev remarks that the SDPK can be expected to remain the only more or less integral party and that the current president played a noticeable role in its election campaign. All the same, in a conversation with Europe Insight, he warned against rushing to conclusions: Republic – Ata Zhurt was not too far behind, and the party itself lacks prominent leaders.
Furthermore, it is actually the leader of Republic – Ata Zhurt, Omurbek Babanov, who is considered the future favorite. “He is a young politician, and society is already thirsty for a change of elites. Against this backdrop, Babanov is looking good.” explains Sariev. However, the expert also sees his potential vulnerabilities: “He is not yet a politician in the full sense of the word. He’s a businessman, and he’s made many mistakes on his part. In this regard, he is very vulnerable.”